We would come in before dinner and plop down in front of the TV to catch The Barney Bean Show. If you were a kid during the Sixties, I’m sure you remember Barney Bean and his ventriloquist’s dummy, Sherwood. Barney and Sherwood would come out to talk with the live studio audience of children at the WYTV Channel 33 studio. Barney would wear a brown fringed vest and goofy hat with a big safety pin pinning up the brim. Sherwood was dress in a garish sport jacket, and there was always great repartee between them, with Sherwood often getting the best of Barney. They even combined on a locally produced 45 recording, “BARNEY BEAN & SHERWOOD – FOR KIDS FOR FUN.”
Barney was David William “Bill” Harris. He was a Mahoning Valley native, born April 10, 1929 in Hubbard. He graduated from Boardman High School and Youngstown College. He was a newscaster but was most well-known as the host of his children’s show. What most people remember was the segment in each show where children could send in to the show to have Barney Bean do a drawing for them on their birthday. With a sketchpad and a magic marker, he started with the child’s initials and would draw a cartoon–different every time! He spoke one time at a youth rally at our church, doing one of his drawings. I think there was a religious focus to his presentation, but all I remember was the drawing!
National celebrity Art Linkletter had a kid’s show around the same time called House Party. He subsequently wrote a book called Kid’s Say the Darndest Things. That proved to be a problem on one of Barney Bean’s live studio shows. He actually had Ronald McDonald on the show. Ronald interviewed the kids in the audience and reputedly asked one of the boys if he had heard any funny jokes. The boy responded with an off-color joke that left Ronald dumbfounded, to which the boy meanly responded, “Eat it, clown.” No chance to edit. That was live TV!
Locally produced children’s shows eventually gave way to national shows like Sesame Street. Bill Harris continued to live in the area working with Gordon Brothers until retiring in 2004. His obituary also indicates that he was part of the Boardman Eagles Club and visited children in the hospital. I wonder if he did drawings for them. I’m also curious whatever happened to Sherwood. Harris lived until June 21, 2008, dying at age 79, leaving behind his wife of 58 years leaving five children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
He also left behind a bunch of amazing cartoons and good memories for a generation of Youngstown area children!